Turtle Mountain | My hiking experience at Iwokrama 

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THERE are many reasons why visiting the Iwokrama Rainforest Reserve should be on your bucket list and Turtle Mountain which is located in the rainforest is certainly one of them. You have to hike almost 1,000 ft to get to the top. As I disembarked the boat at the landing, I remembered how I felt when I was going to climb Stone Mountain in Georgia.

“Do you think you are fit to hike?” Was the question I asked myself in Georgia. Dr Raquel Thomas introduced Glenn and Julian as our very competent tour guides and I had a feeling they have mastered their craft. After a few minutes of walking through the jungle, we came to the turtle mountain camp and a sweet aroma that reminded me of bush tea from my mom’s kitchen permeated the air. The excitement was becoming evident, not only for me, but my hiking partners Tangerine and Kay and I am sure for Raquel too who did this many times. The tour guides briefed us on what to expect on the fascinating hike in the jungle.

My love for adventures and experiencing new things overpowered the doubt of my fitness and I was ready. We experienced some rain before getting to our first rest stop, but that was expected; after all, we are in the rainforest! Before we got to the next rest stop, Julian our tour guide spotted what appeared to be puma prints. I was hoping to see more than the footprints but maybe next time. It is ironic that the name of my cabin at the River Lodge is Puma. We were having a great conversation about life while getting to our first rest stop. I was thinking how many Guyanese understand how blessed we are. I enjoyed the coolness of the forest and the sight of sun rays peeking through the giant trees, including Greenheart and Wamara which are found only in Guyana. I could not resist taking a pic with the tree trunk that looks like a pair of wings ready to fly out of the jungle. The colour combination of another tree trunk inspired me to design a pattern on fabric for my resort collection. The hiking intensified as we got closer to the top and it reminded me of life’s lessons. When we are close to reaching our goals or receiving our breakthroughs, life can seem so difficult and sometimes we want to give up. Julian pointed in a direction and said: “That is the top that looks so close but we have to go around many times to get there.” I am sure we all experienced seeing the finish line but had to take many detours to get there. A feeling of national pride consumed me as my feet landed on the top of Turtle Mountain. Just the thought of standing on a reserve that expands over one million(1,000,000) hectares of land and it is located in my Guyana that is contributing significantly to the world’s oxygen content. We stood for a while overlooking the beautiful Pakaraima Mountain and the mighty Essequibo River.

“From Pakaraima’s peaks of pow’r To Courentyne’s lush sands”; The line in the Song of the Republic surfaced in my thoughts and I was not the only one. We started a conversation about the things we are most proud of as Guyanese and reminiscing about the national songs we sang which motivated us to appreciate our dear land. I am no singer, so very often I tried a Milli Vanilli song during assembly in school but had to try something when my headmaster placed his ears close enough to hear If I was singing, lol. I am not sure if the children sing national songs now but it helped us to understand that we are a gem to the world. Tangerine suggested we sing one of our national songs and it had such an emotional effect on us all. We sang with meaning and every line was an affirmation to this land that gave us birth. You can check the video on my page and send your feedback; I am sure Turtle Mountain provided lasting memories also to the people from many parts of the world and it made an impression on a professor from Boston whom I met at Iwokrama. Adam Sulkoski is a character and he did a handstand in the 120 countries he visited. The pic in this article is the one he did at Turtle Mountain and this is what he said about Turtle Mountain “Breathtaking – the kind of spiritual experience you hope for in a cathedral”
Tangerine said, “I took on this dare, with equally strong, determine-minded women. I call the hike, a feat of great minds, and I embrace the saying- ‘If you put your mind to something, you can achieve it.’ This was one of my greatest accomplishments. I felt as though I had touched the sky in my quest for greatness.”

I would encourage all Guyanese to add the Iwokrama Reserve to their bucket list. Let’s find ways to appreciate more and be good to each other and the environment as we continue to celebrate this beautiful journey called life BEYOND THE RUNWAY.